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Works starts this month on new planetarium at Sherwood Observatory

The countdown is on until ground is broken on site at Sherwood Observatory later this month as work starts on the new Planetarium and Science Discovery Centre.

The construction of the Planetarium and Science Discovery Centre at Sherwood Observatory is one of the projects being funded by Ashfield District Council’s £62.6million Towns Fund.

The contracts have now been signed and work will start on the new building at the end of August, with a planned finish of late 2024.

Plans for the site are ambitious and aim to create a unique, world-class facility that will rival those elsewhere in the UK.

The observatory, on Coxmoor Road, sits alongside a Victorian subterranean reservoir which will be sympathetically transformed into an education and exhibition space.

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The original features of the reservoir, such as the intricate brick arches, will be kept preserving the history of the building.

The Planetarium will be built on top of the reservoir and will immerse visitors in space with a wraparound experience.

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Mansfield and Sutton Astronomical Society (MSAS), who own and run the observatory, currently run outreach programmes with local schools, group visits for adult and children’s groups, public open events and night schools and the new building will allow them to expand this valuable work in Ashfield and beyond.

Schools, clubs, groups, businesses, and individuals will all benefit from having a cutting-edge facility in Ashfield; it will broaden horizons, educate and inspire, and add to the District’s visitor economy.

In January 2023, it was announced that £3.1million from the government’s Levelling Up Fund had been awarded to the project.

Since then MSAS have been working to secure match funding and they have now received contributions from The Garfield Weston Foundation, Foyle Foundation, Wolfson Foundation, and National Lottery Heritage Fund that total £850,000.

Cllr Matthew Relf, Executive Lead Member for Planning and Regeneration, said:

“Everyone knows how excited we are for this project, and we can’t wait for the building to begin. The observatory is already a great asset to the District, but with the new centre and planetarium it will become world-class.

“The importance of having access to a purpose-built science facility locally can’t be underestimated; allowing children and adults who can’t necessarily travel to London or Birmingham or Leicester the chance to experience the magic of space on their doorstep.

“This is just one of the 16 projects being financed by our Towns Fund, which will transform the District, drive regeneration across our towns, and give Ashfield a new identity.

“We want Ashfield to be known as a place of innovation, somewhere people are proud to be from, and people want to visit, and the Planetarium and Science Discovery Centre will certainly put us on the map.”

Steve Wallace, Planetarium Project Manager, said:

“Sherwood Observatory is dedicated to bridging the opportunity gap within our community.

“We will do this through an ambitious outreach programme that uses astronomy as a means of inspiring people of all ages to take an interest in STEM subjects and careers, particularly for disadvantaged young residents, through extracurricular activities and a world-class visitor attraction.

“Recognising that we can inspire the next generation of employees and entrepreneurs, we would love more businesses to get involved.

“The project team have developed a pledge list for those who share our vision, so please get in touch and add your name to this fantastic project.”

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